MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Saluting a Grand Prix great
Frank Perris was a star of the early days of GP racing. Now, on the eve of the 68th season of GP racing, it’s time to pay tribute
Frank Perris was a top Grand Prix rider of the early 1960s, when motorcycling’s World Championships were still brand new. This blog marks the first anniversary of his death, last March.
Perris rode a Norton Manx 500cc single to third in the 1961 500 World Championship, behind the MV Agustas of Mike Hailwood and Gary Hocking, which is a bit like finishing third in the 2016 MotoGP series aboard a Triumph Street Triple.
He raced in very different times: medieval-looking bikes, bowel-loosening street circuits and a lifestyle that would have most modern day MotoGP gladiators scratching their heads in bewilderment.
Although he later won several 125 GPs, Perris never won a round of the premier-class world championship. He came closest at the 1961 Argentine GP (bike racing’s very first flyaway), which went unattended by Hailwood and Hocking, no doubt already sunning themselves on a beach somewhere, having already secured the top two places in the championship.
Perris led the race at Buenos Aires on his Manx, then a footrest fell off, then the gear linkage fell off, leaving him stuck in third gear. The big single’s torque allowed him to limp home in third place, which secured him that top-three championship finish.
Perris and his wife Rita were a huge help to me when I wrote Stealing Speed, which tells the James Bond-style tale of Cold War racing intrigue in which GP rider Ernst Degner defects from East to West and from MZ to Suzuki, taking Walter Kaaden’s two-stroke secrets to Japan, thereby setting the scene for the next four decades of GP racing.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
You can also buy a copy of Mat’s book Stealing Speed here. It is a fantastic read and a thrilling story. Highly recommended.